Keyboard Geniuses

The Digest: Grand Theft Auto V

Digested

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • October 25, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

GTA Vegan

This week brought another edition of The Digest, our monthly chat ‘n’ chew review show. Drew Toal stopped by to discuss the newest and shiniest game in the Grand Theft Auto series. Before they got to talking, they sampled one of Park Slope’s finest hippie-dippie treats, kale chips imbued with vegan cheese. John hated it, but Girard made the case for some tasty vegan cheeses:

I think “vegan cheese” is too wide a category to completely disavow. There are brands of melty cheese-ish stuff that are better than others. Vegan Gourmet is all right, and I’m fine with Daiya, but it has a strong nutty flavor that I imagine could turn folks off. There are also substitutions you can make in recipes to give them a cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast is pretty bomb in this respect, and you can make a great mac and cheese powder using it, walnuts, and some garlic salt. And there are substitutes for fringe cheeses—cream cheese, sprinkle cheese, etc.—that tend to be more successful than ersatz ‘real’ cheeses. I’d never eat a straight-up brick of any of that stuff, but I wouldn’t do that with traditional cheese either. I’ve cooked dishes with vegan cheese that went over perfectly well with omnivores.

Sorry Girard, I still think vegan cheese is yucky. Crab Naga steered the discussion away from impostor cheeses and back to the game at hand. Our crustacean friend found the police presence in the game to be unfortunately inconsistent:

I’ve never found the cops to be that troublesome. Sometimes you’ll get a cop with nitro or something in his car who is able to ram you while you’re speeding along in an Infernus. Sometimes you’ll get the X-ray vision cop, who can see you through a building (although I’ve only had that happen once or twice). Sometimes you’ll get the psychic cops, who will know exactly where to get out of their car and look for you, even if you’re a mile away from the last place anyone saw you. Sometimes you’ll get the teleporter cop, who appears directly in front of you as you’re rounding a corner.

However, there are all kinds of tricks you can pull that make getting away from the cops easier (and the game doesn’t tell you explicitly, which I like). First, if you switch cars, cops won’t notice you in them unless you drive right past them. Second, you can go hide in a bush and unless one of them bumps right into you, they’ll never find you. I’m not sure if it helps, but I also like turning off my headlights when I park my car down some alleyway.

Shock To The System
Pikachu

Matt Gerardi brought word of a new development from Nintendo’s nightmare factory: a Pikachu with motion-captured facial animation from the deepest pits of Hell. This foray into Pikachu weirdness isn’t Nintendo’s first, as Matt mentioned. He linked to a totally radical ad for the old Nintendo 64 game Hey You, Pikachu!. The ad is deeply depressing, as Charlotte Grote aptly pointed out:

It’s a sad look into the life of a boy who, rejected and ignored by his family, retreats into the world of video games, eventually declaring a fictional electric mouse his best friend. Weep for this child, friends. Weep.

Code To Joy
The Wonderful 101

Anthony John Agnello swooped in for the second episode of The Digest to talk up The Wonderful 101. Both Anthony and John were underwhelmed by the finished product but charmed by the concept. The hard-to-grasp controls played a part in forming that opinion, and Fluka waxed about the cold, heartless computer programs that allow controls to come to life:

I feel like the problems with motion control are a rather stark reminder that video games are at their heart big collections of computer code. My everyday job relies on writing code to tell big sets of numbers precisely how to behave. The computer doesn’t care what you meant. It’ll only do precisely what you told it to do. So even though motion controls are designed to read a much more “intuitive” set of human gestures, which if another human looked at they would understand, the Wii and Kinect are still just designed to imitate that kind of subjective, “I meant to do this” input. Beneath that mask of accessibility, there’s still a cold computer waiting for a precise set of input parameters. Well, at least until we develop true AI and enslave it inside our gaming machines!

If I manage to live long enough to enslave a real artificial intelligence in my laptop, I’ll make them reenact Reboot until the end of days. And that’s a Matt Kodner Guarantee™!

Oh Brother
Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons

As a lot of you know, this week’s is the last Digest to be filmed Brooklyn. Next week, John is riding off into the sunset—by which I mean going to Chicago—so he closed out the Digest the way it began. Kotaku’s Evan Narcisse joined John to discuss Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons. The game has a strange interface that has you controlling two characters at once, and Destroy Him My Robots fondly remembered another game with a similar scheme:

The Adventures Of Cookie & Cream does the controlling two characters at once with the left stick/right stick thing as well and it’s excellent. It’s been one of my go-to multiplayer games for when people who aren’t used to the controllers of console games are around and has saved quite a few from having a terribly boring evening watching others play Pro Evolution Soccer and Tekken. And yeah, it explicitly features a 2 player mode that works by sharing one controller (and even a special 4-player mode for two controllers). In that game, however, the player characters are neatly separated, spatially, so you don’t get the “right hand controls the thing on the left” confusion Teti mentions here.

Also of note was the game’s title. Evan joked about interpreting Brothers a little differently. Kyle O’Reilly agreed, and asked for a Blaxploitation-themed game:

To Evan’s point about the (vaguely) misleading title of Brothers, where in the hell is our Blaxploitation third-person shooter, video game industry? You make a bazillion generic military shooters a year and you can’t just re-skin one to match Black Dynamite?

Watch this trailer and tell me it wouldn’t be a perfect video game! C’mon!

That does it for this week. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week!

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45 Responses to “Digested”

  1. Newton Gimmick says:

    Incidentally, Matt, ReBoot is coming back!
    Sadly, it doesn’t look like it will resolve the cliff-hanger at the end of “My Two Bobs.” It will be *sigh* a reboot.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      ReReBootBoot?

      I still feel sad knowing that I loved this show when it came out, but I stopped watching before it got REALLY good. A reboot could be really cool or just embarrassing at this point. I’ll hope for the former.

      • Newton Gimmick says:

        Reboots can be hit or miss. Sometimes you get a knight flying a dragon, other times you end up with a blind Michael Jackson.

  2. Fluka says:

    Yaaaay! One last Brooklyn-based bit of personal validation!

    I’ve actually thought a lot about my job in relationship to games. Debugging stuff actually reminds me a lot of trying to unravel a particularly difficult game level or puzzle sometimes. The computer or game isn’t just cursed – I just need to think my way through the situation logically, eliminating options as they go, asking the right questions, etc. Unless the game is, uh, bugged. Or relies on a higher precision of finger movement than I possess. Or if it’s some kind of arbitrarily absurdist 90s point-and-click dream logic puzzle. Okay, feeling better about my job now. Well, except for the one time where we had to fix a piece of software where half the words were in Italian. Mm, need lifestyle changes.

    • duwease says:

      I definitely think my software/data focused career is at least somewhat thanks to the particularly fiendish puzzle games that came out when I was a kid. I’m at my most comfortable with a rigid set of rules, a goal, and puzzling out how the hell to make the former generate the latter.

      • Fluka says:

        Precisely!

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        I was just talking about this with a coworker the other day, how appropriate that the developer of The Cop Jazz Hour reminds me of it!

        My love of logic puzzles as a kid directly resulted in my current enjoyment of figuring out complex Excel formulas with IF statements. I like trying to map out all of the potential outcomes for a formula and figure out how to reach them all.

        • Enkidum says:

          Using any logical operators in Excel is kind of like smacking yourself in the face with a giant rock.

          It hurts a lot and leaves your face covered in blood, is what I’m saying.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Woah this went up early. Welcome to the Keyboard Geniuses’ “The Dead Yet Live!” edition! Our most-commented article this week was the WAYPTW thread which hit 210 comments, and which will doubtlessly have many more before the day is out. Next up, The Top 5 Most-Liked (non-KG) comments:

    1) With 33 likes @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus describes a common problem for the antisocial.

    2) @Dikachu:disqus gets 28 likes for this even-handed review of GTA V.

    3) With 27 likes, here’s @Citric:disqus with a less even-handed take on GTA V.

    4) @Citric:disqus again, getting 26 likes responding to a sadly-deleted troll.

    5) With 25 likes, @caspiancomic:disqus had some criticism for GTA V.

    No one’s getting a plaid jacket today, so we’ll just need to be content with all the studs. Those go to: @Charlotte_Grote:disqus gets her 2nd stud; @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus gets his 4th stud; @CrabNaga:disqus is at 5; @KyleOReilly:disqus is getting his ninth stud; @Fluka:disqus gets her 12th; and, like the Russian Winter, @ParacletePizza:disqus is unstoppable, getting his 33rd stud! Well done, everyone!

    Finally, Linkdump: Anniversary Edition! First, check out this custom Mega Man 2-themed NES console! Then, enjoy the Capcom 30th Anniversary Character Encyclopedia! And finally, write about it all in this handbound Legend of Zelda-themed journal! That’s all for now, folks! Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

  4. Citric says:

    I had to go into an elementary school and didn’t get a single streetpass thing. Damn kids these days.

    • caspiancomic says:

      Hahaha, I know how you feel. Whenever I’m running errands in town I always bring my 3DS, and sometimes I even go out of my way to stop into multiple used games stores along my route, but I’ve never once picked up a streetpass notification or whatever. It’s getting to the point where I think I might be doing it wrong.

      • Enkidum says:

        Many elementary schools will ban them completely. But my kids often pick up street passes when they’re just going around town or whatever.

    • Girard says:

      Hmm… Once I start teaching, I wonder if I can make cash on the side as a 3DS-nanny for people who want to dip their 3DS into a kid-heavy streetpass pool.

  5. Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

    Blaxploitation movies can be surprisingly fun! There’s a good Rifftrax of one, Guy from Harlem, and while it is a really bad film, it’s also kind of likeable. Who wouldn’t want to hire a super laid back guy (from Harlem) to solve crimes?

  6. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Holy cow. Comment cat sprung early and caught me with my pants down.
    So time for a hasty, poorly-thought through Weekend Prompt!

    It may be that it’s because I had them for the first time coming off of mushrooms and a super fun sledding trip, but I’ve always had a soft-spot for Some Synder’s of Hanover Honey-Mustard Pretzel Bites.
    What snack do you want to see featured on The Digest’s maiden Chicago installment?

    • caspiancomic says:

      Are there any distinctly Chicagoan snacks of national renown? For some reason I want to say hot dogs. Is Chicago famous for its ballpark dogs? Am I thinking of somewhere else?

      Actually you know what could be fun to see on the Digest? Breakfast cereals. Not the sensible bran-and-oat based sensible cereals for adults, mind, more the marshmallows and sugar monstrosities that fueled many a Saturday morning gaming session of yesteryear. Not necessarily in the traditional bowl with milk setup, maybe just eaten out of the box, snack-style.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I just had a Chicago-style dog for lunch today. It was mighty fantastic. Oh, man. Now I’m thinking about it again. I could eat those things all day. Then die. crusted in sodium.

      • Girard says:

        Depp dish pizza is a pretty big deal there. Teti’s head might explode, though, since he’s been living so long in the crappy-pizza capital of the world, and probably only thinks of pizza as slick, greasy, flappy acidic triangles of misery.

      • Colliewest says:

        Popcorn Wars: Garrett’s vs Nuts on Clark.

      • Patrick Batman says:

        A Chicago Italian beef sandwich is the apotheosis of the sandwich to me.

    • Fluka says:

      Ooo, I travel to the Chicago suburbs a lot for work, so I have an answer.

      I have not tried this, because I am sane, but our grad student can’t stop talking about Cookie Dough Creations, a cookie-dough based emporium claiming to be “America’s Expert in Cookie Dough,” located out to the west in Naperville. You can get a sandwich consisting of a layer of raw cookie dough pressed between two 10 inch cookies. As the website aptly says, “This should be illegal.”

    • NakedSnake says:

      Beer.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      I do think a “viewers choice” would be pretty cool where we are given a chance to vote on what they try. I would suggest something spicy and see their reactions.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      A ballpoint banana!

    • Merve says:

      I’m going to suggest the obvious and say deep-dish pizza.

  7. CNightwing says:

    Hey all, I’m at Essen Spiel. It’s freaking busy. Tomorrow is the big competition, then Sunday I’ll mostly be playing and shopping. Report on tomorrow to come..

    • CNightwing says:

      I guess this is the only thread still active? Well:

      INSERT TITULAR PUN HERE

      As our scores were being tallied after the first round of the Europe Masters tournament, it became quite clear that, much like Carnegie Hall, the only way to get to the top of this tournament was practice. As a brave, (adopted) Swiss team member, the tournament was a great excuse to go to Essen Spiel for the first time, and it was well worth the trip. Competition aside, there’s something about a gathering of like minded people with whom you have a great affinity to make you appreciate humanity again, at least until you try to take the Deutsche Bahn to arrive home before midnight.

      The Europe Masters has been running for years, with the majority of teams and winners coming from Germany, but I had honestly never heard of it. Switzerland had not sent a team for a few years, so it really was as simple as asking them if we could go to get a place, whereas those German teams who did take part had to go through what I can only assume were Glee-style regionals and then a national competition. It was no wonder that this year they triumphed again, a team from Hamburg taking the top spot, and one of them the best individual score. The nicest thing about the contest from our perspective was that for the 75 Euro entrance fee, we got sent practice copies of this year’s four games to add to our nascent games club’s collection, and we got to take away a second copy of each game for ourselves after the day itself. Now, if we’d only had more time to use those practice copies, it might have been a little less embarassing.

      Back to that first game – Ginkopolis – a game about building a futuristic, environmentally-friendly city in which you score points with the right tiles in the right places, and the right cards in front of you. My team felt like we knew what tactics were good, but with three of us coming last, this sadly wasn’t true. If you play a lot of games, you get a feel for how complex any particular one might be from one or two playthroughs. There are games which offer many balanced strategies, others where certain strategies are clearly stronger than others with chance occasionally turning the tables, and then there are those games with either design flaws or cruel authors in which chance is more of a determining factor than any choice you might make. We all thought we knew what was strong in this game, but I certainly began to doubt myself when the other three players aimed for what I considered a weak strategy. When the scores were revealed I was last, by a good 20% margin of points, and I accidentally played kingmaker with my final move. I felt pretty bad.

      Game two – Myrmes – offered redemption. This was a game about managing an ant colony, in which you had to gather resources to make a more elaborate nest, create workers to splash resource-claiming pheremones around the board, use warriors to attack other insects and fulfill the arbitrary requests of the queen. Again, I felt like I knew how to play this, and I saw another player following suit, so with some confidence we approached the final round and the scores were pretty tight. Then I made a horrible mistake – I planned to build something that only existed in a limited number, and I hadn’t noticed they’d all been used. I checked some rules to try to get around this, but to no avail, and didn’t score the points I wanted to on my final turn. Fortunately for me, the player just ahead of me then starved due to mismanagement of his resources. He lost enough points for me to win. A much more satisfying conclusion, though I was still kicking myself for such a lousy error in a game that does not offer forgiveness.

      After chowing down some pretzels, of course, it was time for game three – Palaces of Carrera. Your aim was to purchase various qualities of marble at a decent cost, and then construct buildings in cities that showed varying degrees of snobbery about the quality of marble they would allow in their municipality. The game ended when any player satisfied certain conditions, and then a heap of points would be doled out to add to any you tried to score during the game itself, but if you were scoring points you weren’t earning more gold to buy more marble, and therein lies the game. Due to the organisation of the tournament, each player would play one game as first player, one as second, and so on. For this game I was first player, and I was dreading this, as the game end rules meant that a round would be finished, and if you didn’t pay attention as first player you could be left with your last move being something completely useless. My plan was to satisfy the game end conditions as quickly as possible myself, end it and hope the other players were playing the longer game. This was ingenious, except that player 3 had the exact same plan, and was faster than me. He played very well though, and in the end beat me by one point, so I notched up a 2nd place to go with my 4th and 1st.

      So we moved onto the final game – Keyflower. Time had passed stupendously quickly, and here was another game I dreaded, as I had only played it once before. It’s a very cute, pretty game, with large hex tiles and lots of coloured wooden meeples (people-shaped pieces), where I believe the story is that you are pilgrim-style settlers who need to harvest resources from the land, attract new immigrants and try to score points with developed buildings and bonuses for the right items. I thought I was doing quite well early on, I’d acquired quite a few tiles from the auction side of the gameplay, and I hadn’t overspent. My plan was to focus on one colour of meeple, and score most of my points from good, developed building choices. The fun was had when not one, but two rules I didn’t realise existed were mentioned by other players – what fun! This meant I heavily undervalued a certain tile that rewarded resources, and made the wrong decision with my final move. I finished in last place, but only just, with 49 points, where the player who did get the resource-loving tile earned 48 points from it alone. He won, of course, and I kicked myself for that final round decision that would have put me 3rd.

      So my tally was 10 points for the tournament – 5 for a win, 3 for second, 2 and 1 for the last two places. Another team member got 11, another a meagre 6 despite his obvious superiority during practice, and our poor fourth member came last in every game. Onto the ceremonies, and we at least got an honorable mention for bothering to enter from Switzerland. 7 individual players scored the maximum 20 points, and the winner of the individual prize was determined by the highest scores of those they beat (rather than solving the entire scoring matrix to find the eigenvectors – I guess a first-order approximation is ok in the time available). The winning team scored in the region of 60-70 points, and there were boardgame (of course) prizes for the top six, so well done to them. I really enjoyed the experience, though I think I might wait a couple more years before trying again. Honestly, doing as well as the winning team did obviously required dedication. When a Keyflower player told me at the end he had expected to do better, but had only had the chance to play it six times, I sighed, then laughed, then explained how poorly we had all practiced.

      I will put up pictures this evening, and then write something general about the Spiel itself and make some Top Game Tips !

  8. Girard says:

    Soupy, don’t indulge my tendency to manfact all over the place! At least the scare quotes around “tasty” put me in my place a little bit.

    A little bit.

    I mean, I can still sit high on my smug throne of moral superiority over all you depraved onmivores. But I’m still all humble and shit about it.

    • stepped_pyramids says:

      I’m pretty sure vegan cheeze is banned under the Geneva Conventions. It’s considered animal cruelty to feed it to hogs. If you use it as ballast, your boat will be swallowed by Leviathan and you will have to become a Paladin to atone for your sins. The only use science has determined for vegan cheeze is as a camouflage for actual food, except that storing real food closer than one meter to vegan cheeze has been known to cause spontaneous food suicide.

  9. NakedSnake says:

    Kyle & Matt, let’s not forget House of the Dead Overdrive. It’s a mashup of movie tributes, but it certainly draws from the Blaxploitation genre.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Was that the one on the Wii? It pretty shamelessly was a ripoff of the Rodriguez/Tarantino movie Grindhouse. I guess it could have been influenced by actual exploitation movies, but the timing suggests otherwise. Not that that’s really a knock against it, it is “exploitation,” after all.

      • NakedSnake says:

        Yea, it was a Wii version. The timing may have been fortuitous for them, but it definitely drew its own inspiration. Honestly I have seen both grindhouse movies and never made the connection. It was definitely a “satire”, but a full-blooded one. And whatever else it was, it was birthed straight from the nutsack of some shitstir crazy motherfuckin’ genius idiot-child.

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